Williamsburg City Councilman Loren Connell probably summed it up best when he pointed out during the June city council meeting that Williamsburg residents probably ought to be thanking the current workers at its Firestone plant.
“If they weren’t doing a good job, I don’t think Firestone would be doing an expansion,” Connell noted.
Monday morning, the Williamsburg Firestone Industrial Products plant broke ground on a $51 million expansion of its Williamsburg facility, which will add 250 additional workers.
Connell is right.
This is a huge vote of confidence particularly for a community as small as Williamsburg, and the job that the current Firestone workforce has done has probably been instrumental in this.
For those that don’t know, the Williamsburg plant opened on July 5, 1989, and currently has 365,000 square feet of space. It is now the only remaining U.S. air spring manufacturing plant.
The expansion will add 68,000 square feet of manufacturing space to help meet market demand particularly for the electric vehicle market, and work on the expansion is expected to wrap up by the end of 2022.
Among other things, the Williamsburg Firestone facility is synonymous with safety having won five Kentucky Governor’s Safety Health Awards during its existence.
In 2010 and 2012 it was recognized for working one-million hours without a lost-time accident, and in 2019 was recognized for having worked four-million hours without a lost-time accident.
The expansion is a huge investment in the community, particularly when you couple it with the Cumberland Mint historical wagering/off track betting facility that is currently being built in Williamsburg off of Penny Lane.
The Cumberland Run harness racing track is also being built in conjunction with this project in the Knox County portion of Corbin.
The combined racetrack-related facilities are expected to employee at least 200 people with an additional 300 to 400 jobs at the Corbin facility when it starts hosting live racing.
The rest of the world seems to be figuring out what local residents already knew, which is that Williamsburg, Corbin, Whitley County and Knox County are great places with a lot going for them.
We have great people, and overall, a great workforce.
In addition, geographically speaking we are in a great location. Corbin and Williamsburg are about halfway between Lexington and Knoxville with I-75 running by both cities.
One thing is certain.
Change is coming.
This is especially true for Williamsburg as the Cumberland Mint project is expected to attract 2,500 visitors per day when it is completed late next summer.
Between Firestone and racing facilities, the Williamsburg area should be seeing an influx of new residents and quite a bit of growth over the next year or two.
Williamsburg Mayor Roddy Harrison already knows that local leaders will be facing a challenge to accommodate this growth while still keeping in place that small town feel that makes Williamsburg “feel like home” as the town motto famously says.
It’s a nice problem for local leaders to have, but I think that they should be up to the challenge.